Roopa's Story – Stolen Childhood
Twenty-year-old Roopa* doesn’t know exactly how old she was when she was taken from her parents by an uncle. Maybe she was only 5 or 6 - and with hindsight it seems clear she was abducted. If her life were likened to the popular board game, its early years would have featured a lot more snakes than ladders.
Life for sale
What she does know is that she was sold to a woman in Mumbai, who kept her until she was 9. At this still-tender age, her life took another devastating twist: she was sold into prostitution. Three years later her earnings – relatively high given her young age and tragic ‘premium’ status in the sex industry – would have paid off her buying price.
Older prostitutes, trafficked into brothels, are expected to service up to 20 clients a day, for which they receive only about 15 rupees (approximately 12 pence). Their pimps and madams, of course, line their pockets far more generously. So do the many others in these human chains - chains that make up the big business that is people trafficking.
No home from home
Roopa’s story took another turn when she was rescued in a police raid and taken to a Government home. But sadly this wasn’t a ladder up to a fairy-tale ending: the home was filled to three times its capacity, there was an extreme shortage of beds and washing facilities, and the staff were overwhelmed.
'Every day I cried' said Roopa. 'The staff would verbally abuse us. They would tell us we were bad and remind us of our past.'
Many young women in this situation find themselves unable to cope with the past, to hold down a job or to reintegrate into the community. And so inevitably some return to the only past and ‘family’ they know.